On-Campus Wireless Internet

15 06 2009

The topic of easy-to-use, reliable wireless access to the internet came to the fore today, so I thought I should write about it.  I heard from a number of people on our Yammer social network that they believed that our institution’s wireless service was difficult to connect to and only available in scattered areas around the campus.  That this appeared to be the opinion of the majority (with some exceptions) caused me considerable concern, as in my opinion, student wireless access should be considered priority infrastructure for any self-respecting further/higher education organisation.

From a teaching and learning point of view, campus-wide internet access – or even access that targets social and learning spaces such as refectories, libraries, lecture rooms and labs – is what truly blends together online and face-to-face learning.  It means that while they’re on campus, a student can access their online learning just by turning on their netbook or iPhone.  They can contribute to class online discussions while eating lunch or access their readings before class, using the technology they already have with them: their laptop, netbook, or other wi-fi capable mobile device.

Some of you may be thinking “can’t students just go use a computer lab?”  To some extent, they can.  However, most students don’t choose a library or computer lab as their preferred environment for group projects or study groups unless they’re forced to.  In most of those locations, there are restrictions on noise levels, food, drink, physical access, and software installation/configuration.  If students can get together at a campus cafe or in a refectory to work together, they will.  By way of example: every day the refectory at my university is full of students working together, because that is their preferred space to do so.

But they can’t get internet access there – not without an apparent struggle.  I work in an office just above the refectory, and one of my colleagues (in the same office) reports that there’s no signal.  Even if they can get a signal, the process of actually logging in and getting network access is difficult or impossible for the apparent majority.

Then, of course, there are all the affordances of the internet that could be brought into learning situations.  Students can look up definitions or supporting materials in lectures, using a wiki to collaboratively create lecture notes, or blogging an experiment or other learning experience, live from a student lab.

For mobile learning – and even for flexible learning – at any educational institution, equipping formal and informal learning spaces (such as social spaces) with fundamental enabling technologies like wireless internet access has to be at the top of the priority list.  It even makes sense from a budget point of view, as every laptop a student brings in and uses takes pressure off the student labs.  This, in turn, reduces the amount that has to be spent on standard-image, admin-locked, physical lab computers… and frees students to use their own computers which can be configured to best support their particular program of study.  That’s what I call win-win!

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Create Mobile Websites with Wirenode

26 05 2008

I’ve previously written about Winksite, a service that allows users to create free mobile websites using a CMS-like interface (simply switching on or off various tools and editing options).  Now there’s a new free mobile web site hosting and authoring service called Wirenode, which (instead of a CMS-like, “Web 1.0” interface) uses a Web 2.0/AJAX interface to create mobile websites and integrate Web 2.0 services including Twitter, LinkedIn, RSS, image galleries, or other “widgets”.  The integration also works back into Web 2.0, with a Wirenode widget available for Facebook and Mobile Facebook.  Awesome!

Mobile Pages - iPhone
Unlike Winksite, which is almost completely textual in both content and presentation, Wirenode incorporates media and interactivity, which may even be uploaded by the user, and there’s even an analytics tool for users who like to see how many visitors/students are checking out their mobile site.

It’s a terrific tool to help teachers or students create and present information in a mobile format, and a must-see for other educators interested in utilising mobile devices for enhancing and supporting teaching and learning.

(via Learning Elearning)

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Getting Answers on the go!

8 10 2007

Just a few days ago, Yahoo! Search announced that they would be integrating Yahoo! Answers with their mobile search service.

Yahoo! Answers is a website where you can ask *any* question (well, within reason) and have it answered by a community of over 95 million users worldwide.  I explored this concept in depth earlier this year, rising to one of the highest ranking members on Yahoo! Answers in Australia (and even being profiled on the Yahoo! Answers Australia blog).

In general, a question posed on Yahoo! Answers will get replies within a matter of a few minutes, from a range of opinions, ranging from genuine experts through to users trying to “game” the system (users get “points” for replying, so there can be a number of junk replies to any given question).

My thoughts at the time were that this “informal learning” paradigm would be well suited to the mobile medium – short questions and brief answers, with an around-the-clock, global answering community.  However, at that time, the service was not yet mobile – accessing Yahoo! Answers on a PDA browser was pretty much impossible, let alone a mobile phone.

Yahoo! Search’s latest announcement means that the brief answers submitted to Yahoo! Answers will now be accessible using mobile search… which brings part of the Yahoo! Answers paradigm to mobile devices.  It’s only a matter of time now before users should be able to submit questions for answering using the mobile devices too. 🙂

Keep an eye out… in the future, Yahoo! Answers may provide you with a personalised question-and-answer service in the palm of your hand. 🙂

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A Bit of Personal Reflection: Facebook as a Learning Tool?

30 08 2007

Sue’s comment to this blog post about Mobile Facebook, asking for ideas on how Facebook could be used as a learning tool, prompted me to experiment with the possibilities in Facebook and Facebook Mobile.

Fbiphone1

But while both Facebook and blogs owe their original pedigree primarily to social (as distinct to working or studying) motivations, I’ve grappled with some initial reservations, thinking about opening my existing Facebook profile to my colleagues across the Australian (and International) Flexible Learning Community.

It’s not that I don’t trust y’all with all of the details I have posted in my private profile. Okay, actually, maybe I don’t. 🙂

The solution, of course, is simple – create a whole seperate profile to log into during work hours – a professional Facebook presence, devoid of (too) personal revelations and socialising temptations. Just as a savvy blogger will have a separate personal blog and a professional blog (and never the twain shall meet), so too is it a good idea to create a seperate account on Facebook that is designed to enable communications and professional networks, without the colourful clamour of Facebook friends.

I guess I will have to do a similar kind of thing with most of these social web tools, despite the inconvenience of having to have seperate passwords and administration for each one. Indeed, it’s looking as if I’m actually creating two completely different worlds online: a network of professional social sites, and a network of personal social sites… two very different mes, with the occasional convergence (e.g. my Flickr account).

Right. Hopefully, that was the hard part. Now to figure out the best ways to use my (Serious) Facebook – and (Serious) Facebook Mobile – accounts, to support and enhance learning… hmmm. Featuring news, RSS feeds, and surveys, Jacinta Gascoigne‘s Facebook page appears to be a good place to start…

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Could 3D GPS Enable Game-like Situated Learning?

27 08 2007

GPS (the Global Positioning System) uses satellites to help users to navigate, with accuracy as good as half a metre or so. But while most of us are happy to have a simple 2D or “tilted” fake 3D GPS display to guide us, Asia is developing GPS systems that look more like first-person video games:

Provia A1 GPS Navigator by HTMS

If this technology becomes more widely available, it could be terrific for educators. Imagine being able to create virtual “learning checkpoints” which exist in a student’s GPS/cellphone/PDA that they can visit to “collect” learning experiences. These checkpoints could show up as different hovering icons in the 3D display, rather like this screenshot from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, where an “enterable doorway” icon is shown behind the character:

A learner could physically walk around locating checkpoints, which could trigger all kinds of activities on their mobile device: for example, a video or animation (e.g. explaining a feature of their physical location), a link to an internet resource, a discussion (perhaps using video or audio), or an assessment. A learner could also simulate walking around physically – it would be just like walking around in a video game – to visit or preview some of these resources without actually being there.

Even more exciting: perhaps GPS units could also upload location data for each student involved in a particular learning stream , so that you could see the avatar of other learners physically or virtually visiting various checkpoints on your GPS simulation. If you were physically at a site with other learners, you could identify them from their avatar, and could have a real-life discussion about the location you’re visiting; if you’re visiting virtually, you could ask questions of real-life people, actually at the scene, who could upload their own images, videos, or comments from the site to help other learners.

Provia A1 GPS Navigator by HTMS

And unlike a video game, where you run around collecting fake points and accomplish made-up missions, imagine immersive, real-life games where students collect real and authentic learning towards actual qualifications… 🙂

Technabob via Gizmodo

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Paper Blogging – more ideas!

30 04 2007

Sue Rockwood at the “No Matter, There” blog has had a go at the paper blogging activity, adding her own ideas to the activity such as a “blog board” which makes for a colourful and interactive display.  Her own insights into why paper-based simulations serve as a useful tool in demonstrating and explaining technology concepts, and her own ideas (e.g. for a paper-based “safe chat” simulation), are worth reading, and it’s great to hear her feedback on how the activity went for her classes.

Great stuff, Sue!  If anyone else is interested in having a go at a paper based simulation of social software, you might like to read Sue’s posts for some great ideas.

(Image: AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Sue Rockwood, some rights reserved)

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Happy Birthday to the Mobile Learning Blog!

23 04 2007

The Mobile Learning blog has just turned one year old! According to Craig Harper, who compiles the Australian Blog rankings, the Mobile Learning blog is currently ranked at #108 in Australia, attracting some 3000 hits a day.

With our first birthday celebrations, it’s a good time to announce the winners of the Mobile Learning Blog’s First Birthday competition. Entrants had to “get social,” and create a link from a piece of social software to their favourite post in the Mobile Learning Blog.

I received some fantastic entries, and I’ve been going through them over the last couple of weeks. The authors of the following entries will be getting portable MP3 players with audio recording capability.

  • “Good” and “Evil” Sue at the “Mobile Technology in TAFE” blog created a podcast about the competition for their entry, which, as always, is fantastic!!! The result is a podcast called “What we learnt while preparing for a podcast for… the Mobile Learning Gadget Giveaway!” The Two Sues look at how you can put notes on your iPod, (even a website), and also talk about their experiences of taking the Mobile Learning blog into various mobile formats. Thank you ladies, for such a wonderful exploration of the blog… which is brilliant: I even learned quite a few things myself… WOW. And thanks for the Happy Birthday shoutout! 🙂
  • Jym Brittain at the Technology 4 Teachers blog also entered a terrific entry, which also included a link to Jym’s own presentation on m-learning, which he delivered to the Oklahoma Governeor’s International Education Conference.
  • Bruce Schalau also shared some of his directions in exploring mobile learning in his entry, which include his projects one mobile phones in the classroom, for questions and responses, and transcoding his university’s website materials for use on mobile phones.
  • Finally, Frances McLean decided to use a wiki to link to the site, from her “yourpda” wikispace. That’s fantastic, Frances, and I hope you enjoyed trying out wikispaces! Frances: I can’t find your contact details on your website, but if you’d like to email me with your postal address at leonard.low@gmail.com, I will be sending you out your prize this week. 🙂

Congratulations, giveaway winners! I will be contacting you all to arrange delivery of your shiny new MP3 players this week!

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